December 21, 2012 by Colin Kelly
Look at some of the biggest scandals and crises we’ve seen in 2012 and all of them, in some form or another involving people communicating badly.
Think about the Jimmy Saville/Newsnight scandal at the BBC and the fallout which forced several senior management out or into other posts and severely damaged trust in the Corporation.
So much of what we read in newspapers and followed on radio and television involved the publication of emails and text messages. We got an insight into how these men and women communicate. A couple of them attempted to explain their decisions by writing blogs.
Here’s a reality check: You can’t be a good manager sitting behind a keyboard or typing on an iPad or Blackberry. I don’t expect ‘leaders’ to communicate like that. And if they know what’s good for them – they shouldn’t. Why would someone in that position, making decisions at that level, choose to put it in writing? And are they really so lacking in confidence in themselves that they need to explain what they did to the world?
In this digital age, there’s a pressure to respond to everything quickly. Conversations ping around back and forward in real time. Staff at all levels sit in front of email, with the Outlook window open, replying without thinking, as soon as a message comes in. STOP. Turn it off, step away.
In one of my previous jobs, we had ‘Email Free Friday’. I thought it was a great idea but it only lasted a few weeks until a member of the management declared it unworkable!
Good leaders don’t need keyboards, apps, blogs or tablets. They don’t need to explain their thinking. They just lead.
We could all do with stepping back from the gadgets and technology and giving each other the benefit of 100% of ourselves. So our colleagues and clients hear our tone of voice, see our body language and can put what we say into context. When we sent an email or text message all that is missing. And it causes problems. None of the great leaders in history used this technology when it came to winning people over. But they still succeeded.
Of course there’s a place for technology in every organisation. But senior managers and leaders need to use it sparingly. They are in a vulnerable position with people just waiting to trip them up. Don’t leave a written record of your thought process.
If you can’t physically stand in front of people, look them in the eye and win them over then you’re not going to amount to much as a leader, you’ll eventually get found out and would probably be better getting out now with your dignity intact.